One of the many things, in my totally biased opinion, that makes London special is its wonderful parks. And some of these are wilder than you can imagine – such as Richmond and Bushey Park, both of which have some rather special Royal residents – the Queen’s deer.
This autumn I boarded a ridiculously early train from Waterloo and braved the first of the chilly mornings in order to venture into Richmond park. I was there during the rutting season when the deer are more visible and, dare I add without upset my readers too much, it also helped that it was just before culling season, so they were at their most plentiful!)
It was a fascinating experience being so close to these wild and yet seemingly tame animals. Having joined another photographer and driven into the park as soon as the gates opened pre-dawn, within minutes we saw a huge stag staring into the car headlights seemingly unfazed by our vehicle – as if to remind us that we were merely tolerated visitors in his territory. As dawn lifted we saw more and more of his clan and were able to get very close without them being the slightest bit fazed by us. It made me laugh to see how some tourists went stupidly close, as if they hadn’t noticed those huge antlers and stopped to pontificate on what damage they could do if their owner got slightly fed up by their intrusion; while at the same time regular visitors to the park cycled, ran or rode past chattering away to each other seemingly oblivious to these magnificent animals inches away from them.
I don’t know which response perplexed me the most, because I felt like I was on a safari and my heart beat that little bit faster every time I saw a deer peering through the grass . Maybe if I had this park on my doorstep I too would take them for granted and the camouflage would work on me as well.
But I like to think that I won’t, because I still catch my breath whenever I see St. Paul’s cathedral illuminated at night, or London’s new corporate cathedral – the Shard – shimmering under the sun’s rays, even though I see them practically every day. And I still marvel at what a wonderful place London is – to have white Portland stone and glistening steel on my doorstep, and majestic wild animals just a short train ride away.